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From: Best Weekend May 31, 2013 3:11PM
Oddie (left) with Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor in The Goodies' prime. Source: News Limited
It's schtick that hasn't changed in four decades. Asked to say a few words for Bill Oddie ahead of his visit Down Under this month, his former Goodies cohorts Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden had just one.
"Goodbye", they said.
Admittedly, a compound word, but just one word all the same.
"I conned them into a studio to do a nice little piece, because I thought it would be nice to give a message to Australia and maybe give me some encouragement and a few tips as to what I should try and do, but frankly I didn't find them very helpful - I can honestly say they're both mean bastards," grumbles Oddie ahead of his countrywide Oldie But A Goodie tour, a night of career reminiscence about everything Goodies and his various incarnations as a natural history presenter and wildlife activist.
Oddie did end up getting a few more words from his former colleagues in the end. Not many, but a few. So at least there is some input from the other two members of a trio who spent a generation camped in loungerooms across Australia thanks to their long-running sketch-sitcom The Goodies.
It was just 76 episodes filmed over 11 years from 1970-81, but seemingly shown nonstop at that oh-so-prime-time just before Doctor Who, in the great run-in to bath and teatime and it made them household names here.
Weirdly, British TV execs didn't quite see how the show, with its mesh of pop culture, zeitgeist sociopolitical concerns and surreal silliness (giant kittens, feral Magic Roundabout Dougals and Rolf Harris plagues) could possibly be family fare. So it was relegated to a late timeslot. (ABC execs of the time, take a bow.)
"We always knew it was potentially a family show, but of course that confuses people who work in television, because they want to know exactly what the audience is," the now 71-year-old Oddie explains.
"I remember being told, 'Well, you're all undergraduates', to which we replied (he puts on a posh accent), 'Well, no, we're graduates actually' and the response was, 'Well, yes but is it that wacky student humour?' and so they wouldn't believe us."
To be fair, Oddie, Brooke-Taylor and Garden were all Cambridge University graduates who had been heavily involved with the famous Footlights Club troupe, alongside the likes of Monty Python's John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle.
(Nerd fact: there are many Goodies episodes in which the trio take the micky out of their old uni mates mercilessly).
And it was that experience that informed the way they went about their business. For example, the use of music. Oddie (who co-wrote The Goodies theme song) is actually credited with being one of the first performers to parody rock and pop music, long before Weird Al began tweaking Michael Jackson lyrics.
"Doing a revue-type program if you had music it would be this sophisticated witty Noel Coward-type songs and right from the start I had this basic thing of wanting to write music that wasn't serious but sounded as though it might be," he explains.
"I always put our success at Cambridge down to that because all these sophisticated undergraduates didn't want to be seen just enjoying this beefy rock and roll but if it was satirical they could tell themselves well that's why we like it because it's funny, when really they just wanted to bop around."
Oddie had released albums of such songs long before The Goodies, but the mashup approach was one that lingered. And quite formally too, as Oddie explains.
"We had what we called our Panorama (long-running BBC current affairs program) list, with all these serious elements, which if you were doing a serious program you would have to do," he says.
"But we had another list we would combine with that, so we'd put the two things together.
"The best example of that is the "ecky thump" (officially titled Kung Fu Kapers, which had northern Englishman deploying an ancient martial art that involved hitting people with black puddings) episode. So on one list was kung fu which was current at the time (Bruce Lee had just broken through and the West was martial arts mad) and on the other list was north country culture.
"So for no good reason we put both of them together to see what came our and you get the north country version of kung-fu. It was all about looking around.
"I bet we've all looked around separately over the years and seen what's going on, seen something in the news or on TV and thought, 'Oh, I wish we were still going now to do the Goodies version of that," Oddie says.
The Concourse Theatre, Chatswood; June 21, 8pm, adult $74.90-$106.40, child under 16 $55-$66.50, family $250-$326, 1300 795 012, theconcourse.com.au
Five of the best Goodies moments
1 Kung-Fu Kapers (has Bill practising the ancient north country martial art of wielding a black pudding).
2 War Babies (very large two-year-olds Bill, Tim and Graeme do commando training).
3 Scatty Safari (the trio head Down Under to catch wild Rolf Harrises for their safari park).
4 South Africa (satirises system of apartheid with discrimination against short people "apart-height''.
5 Kitten Kong (Graeme feeds a special food to a kitten that grows into a giant).
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